The Other Woman

A long time ago, too many to count, I lost my first husband to the other woman.  It was sad and I was miserable but I got over it.

I moved on far quicker than I imagined I could.  How and why?

Well… for one, it was the third time.  In my mind, I’d reasoned that a man that strays is not a man worth crying over.  If you take him back  (and I did twice before) then he’ll continue to stray.  What incentive is there for him to remain faithful if you keep taking him back?  Is it worth the heartache?  Not at all. Besides, I had two daughters, what kind of message would that be sending them?

So, I moved on and was eventually okay with it.

Then I married a younger man and he had women pal friends. Oh boy!  They were friends before I came along, so why worry about them.  I found it incredible that there was not more to their relationships.  When he and I started dating, he talked of them often, it was always “Jenny” this or “Pam” that.  So, of course, I thought perhaps there’s more there than I realize?  Hmmmm.

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Jenny was the pretty one and his “favorite” climbing buddy. She was always available to go on trips with him and he loved having someone to climb with. On occasion it puzzled him that her husband had no problem with her gallivanting off alone with a single guy.  In the early stages of our relationship when we were just friends, I ignored any speculation. Easy peasy. Not my problem.

One summer, I took a climbing trip with my rock-climbing buddies and he went trekking with  Jenny and I thought perhaps Pam,  another one of his regular climbing partners, but he reminded me how the two women didn’t get along so it wasn’t likely they’d pair up with him. Could it have been jealousy?  No telling.  It was kind of funny actually.

In the meantime, my guys, ( I was with three) helped me set up my tent on a mound not far from theirs so they could keep an eye out for me while giving me some privacy.  I loved it.  I know little about my BF’s trip, but it didn’t matter.  We were after all only dating then.

Off track for a moment here. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with climbing in general, let me inform you that not all climbing is technical, meaning requiring ropes and harness.  In fact climbing routes have numerical classifications depending on their difficulty, so when I refer to “rock” climbing, then I’m letting you know it is more difficult or as some say “technical” which requires rope and harness pretty much all the time, except for the brave soul, and there are some who free climb regardless of it’s difficulty, but that’s not me. The hardest climb I ever did was a 5.10a (US) which I thought pretty tough,  but for a more experienced climber, probably not. When I refer to climbing fourteener’s, I mean peaks of over 14,000 feet in altitude, these may or may not require ropes at all, although it is possible. In fact, there are peaks of less than 14,000 feet, such as the Trinities in Colorado where you’d like to at least have the option of using ropes if necessary, which some in our group did. Later I questioned my own sanity for not having been one of them.  Most guidebooks will tell you if there is a probability of needing them depending on your own caliber of expertise. There are some heights and areas that although not necessarily difficult are so exposed that they can make you feel a bit woozy, so it then becomes more of a precaution than a necessity.  BTW, For me exposed means straight down or with very little to break your fall, should you fall. In cases like that you could get “sewing machine leg” which means your legs tremble uncontrollably from the tension and trepidation of taking the next step.  That can be especially true on lateral climbs but not so much on the vertical ones.  It somehow feels different.

 

Back on track. As our relationship progressed, my BF and I began going on trips together with his friends.  Mine were not backpacking climbers, so it was just me that migrated to the mountain climbing group.

I was a greenhorn when it came to this distance climbing.  While rock climbing required leg and arm strength with enough stamina to hike into the climbing area, climbing 14ner’s required more long distance stamina and in rare occasions, decent technical knowledge.  Usually in rock climbing, the places I went to required minimal trekking in and most areas, you could practically just drive up to get to them, like the City of Rocks in Idaho.

Climbing 14ner’s was tough in a different way.  I was always out of breath from the altitude… until someone cued me in on a trick.  But before I learned it, these new group of “friends” frequently left me in the dust while they practically ran up the mountain, found a spot to take a break and wait for me to catch up.  As soon as I’d get there, they’d put on their packs, wait a couple of minutes for me to take a swallow of water and maybe, if I was lucky, I’d get a bite of a granola bar before they’d be ready to head out again. I learned quickly not to bother sitting down because as soon as I sat down they’d be up, which was just as well because my legs would start congealing and it would be all I could do to get moving again if I sat too long.  Fortunately, I did get stronger. But that was at first and boy did Jenny enjoy being the queen bee in those early days.

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Even my BF (hubby) didn’t wait for me.  I remember half the time wondering why he was my BF.  It pissed me off because he’d be of with “her” or “them” and I was struggling behind.  I’d have to remind myself how I grew up at sea level and I was considerably older learning all new stuff to do. (I’m nearly 50 in those pictures above) It was all new to me so I was determined and at the end of the day I was glad of it.  I really loved getting to the top of peaks and seeing God’s creations in all their magnificent glory.  Not to mention testing my own strengths and tenacity. Getting left behind while Jenny, him and the rest of the gang were way ahead was quite motivating as well.

On one of the earlier camp outs, Jenny and I were off by ourselves and she tells me how she just can’t understand how he could fall for someone like me.  (Bitch!)  Without malice, I ask what she meant by that.  Her response, was… “you’re old-er”.. . Yes, that can’t be denied I am years older but she didn’t know how much older so her stating it cued me in on how she felt about him and how I was the interloper.

Huh!

I tell my BF and being a guy, a rock could land on his head and he’d never notice, but he laughed and said, “No way, we’re just friends. We both just like to climb.”

Riiiiight!

Then he adds, “besides, she’s married.”

No matter, I kept my eye on her because although Pam was a possibility, as a single woman, she never made any claims or try to mark her territory.

So, I used the principle of keeping your enemies closer and asked Jenny to go climbing on a trip my BF had done several times before and that she had failed on two other occasions, so it was good chance for me to have a partner and her to try again.  Gladstone sits between and near Mt. Wilson and Wilson Peak.  It pretty much required an early morning start, so like at about 3 am I’m up and a little later, pick her up. Soon we are headed out from home and arriving as early as possible and starting the actual climb at daybreak.

picture by John Kirk

We did Wilson Peak first then proceeded to head up Gladstone.  Unfortunately, it started snowing about then.  At first lightly and then suddenly humongous flakes begin coming down quickly.  It was an early autumn snow which was surprisingly wet, so note the foreground in the picture and the rocky ridge?  Well compound that with wet snow that because of the cold will freeze.  We get through about a third of the way and each step becomes progressively more tenuous.  I suggest we turn back. She says no, “she’s failed twice before and just can’t turn away again.” We went on a bit further until the snowfall escalated. In just a few minutes the places we’d passed earlier were completely white. It was my first attempt and though I felt for her, I wanted to see another day and wouldn’t continue.  Plus each step we took became slipperier as we progressed.  Getting there was possible, but the return?  When we turned around to come back, we both looked up to see what looked like giant alien stick figures materializing on the east face of the saddle where the snow had collected, across from Mt. Wilson.  It was like a sign from God.

As it turns out, we barely made it to this old mining shack we’d passed going up the mountain and took refuge there. It was still far from our vehicle, but until it abated some, it was a safe haven.  We worried it wouldn’t stop and we’d be stranded there overnight and I made calculations of what we had in our packs that could get us through the night. In light of that we made the decision to go for it. As it was, it was dark when we got off the mountain (remember, we started out initially at 3 am)  Sadly, it would be midnight before we drug our sorry bodies home.

I didn’t climb with her again.  Without sounding sexist, I observed that the climbers with more sense were generally guys and I trusted my hubby’s judgement best of all.  Some time later Jenny, would get a divorce and surprisingly, she did drop hints here and there which confirmed what I’d said.  Was he disappointed? I  asked.  Had she been free, would he have given her a second thought?  He was honest and said he didn’t know. The truth is, it was actually Pam he’d been more attracted to, but only because she was always up for a trip, other than that, he didn’t find her that attractive and she was so dang radical that he’d pretty much nixed her out as well.  As for my queries about Jenny’s climbing passion being more akin to his?  He said “No”, she wasn’t that great.  Yes, sure she liked to go out but he questioned her motivation because,  in retrospect there were times when she went on climbs with him that she failed the ascents, bailing halfway up. Her reasons were complaints of nausea and headaches, which to be honest, if you don’t adequately hydrate at those altitudes, it can be a problem.  As for abandoning climbs? Well, I too,  abandoned climbs before and in both instances I was with a singular other woman and both times it snowed heavily. I’d also heard stories my BF told me of times he should have and didn’t and how it could have been fatal. Then there were the news stories of people getting caught in blizzards and ending up dead or lost for days. It happens.

As for Jenny, I felt sorry for her because even though she remarried, it didn’t work out well for her that time either. From then on out, she climbed less and less but then so did we.  Age has a way of catching up to us, but for as much older as I was than they, I outlasted them all.

Oh, as for the trick I learned to survive the altitude and breathe easier?

Aspirin.

Bayer Aspirin Regimen Low Dose 81mg, Enteric Coated Tablets, 300 Ct

Homeless

The BROTHER IN LAW 

Yesterday my brother in law came to visit. I hadn’t seen him in about 15 years. The biggest reason is because of the woman he’s married to. Rebecca is difficult and has created a chasm between mother and son, brother and brother because of her critical nature. I don’t include myself in that equation and am only affected by the fact that it hurts people I care about but not me personally. I could but won’t enumerate the many things she has done because that’s not the point of this story, BUT we or anyone else for that matter including her own family are not welcome in her home. Ever.

Sadly, it has been seven years since my husband and mother in law were visited by him. Every once in awhile, she (Rebecca) lets him out to come visit family, hence the visit. He said this would probably be the last time.

Mt. PYRAMID – ASPEN COLORADO

The last time, I saw Dave was when we blew out our knees climbing Pyramid, a fourteen-er in Aspen, Colorado.  The pitch was such that it put a great deal of stress on all of our bodies, especially the knees. You might ask, how does one blow out their knees climbing a mountain?    It’s not the climbing up, but the coming down. When you have an extreme pitch such as the one Pyramid has, it’s best to take it slow.  Being guys the two brothers did the macho thing and practically ran down its slope. Imagine running down Chichen Itza  in Mexico and imagine dropping your weight down hard on your knees with each step…you get the picture.  Well, the truth is I didn’t blow mine out but they’ve been a bit more sensitive since. I, fortunately  became acutely aware, feeling the impact on my knees almost immediately and realized that if I didn’t make an adjustment I would pay for it later. Clever me, though feeling like a sissy, took preventive measures and descended mostly on my butt taking each step gently, easing myself down. Needless to say I took a long time to get down. Dave did not and paid for it,  never climb again after that.  Russ and I continued to scale other mountains in the years to come, but that was the last trip for Dave.

This week, when we arrived at my mother in laws, I could tell by the look on her face something was amiss and then he rounded the corner. I almost didn’t recognize him. It amazed me that he had aged so much in that time. There is only two years difference in the two brother’s ages, but he looked like an old man, tired and beaten down. Russ looked vibrant by comparison. I know my mother in law believes it’s “that woman” and it probably is, but it was sad to see.

BIRDING – Life’s little pleasures.

Dave is into birding or perhaps I should say bird watching.  While at my mother in law’s, he set up his tripod and telescope to see what new birds he might find in the area. When he came to our house, he only brought in a pair of binoculars. I was disappointed because I knew that with my neighbor’s bird sanctuary, he was bound to see even more birds, but he didn’t seem interested.  I guess he was too tired and besides he recounts to us about how he had already spotted a couple of eastern birds while at his mothers anyway, recorded them and broadcast it on his birding “channel” and I guess that was enough for him for now.

Instead he sat down to enjoy my “fine” cooking and only then went out into the backyard with only the binoculars to see what he could see.

THE SHELTER

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Homeless camp center left

Our backyard overlooks a canyon where the Sprinter train takes tourists and locals to either the beach and/or to other connections, beyond that are industrial buildings. It was there, tucked in the midst of the trees by the tracks that Dave spotted the homeless shelter, just below our house. Since it was well camouflaged, we’d never noticed it, not that we were looking for it.

Call it timing but a few minutes later, we saw someone walking the tracks carrying a backpack and bag.  We figured, he’d been shopping and was bringing dinner home or maybe he actually works a job and was returning home.  I took the binoculars and watched him as he kept looking up at us. I wondered if he really could see us or if he knew we could see him.  Perhaps it was his typical precaution. We didn’t know for sure if he was the tenant but we followed him anyway waiting to see where he’d go as he walked along the track. As it was, he passed the trees where the logical access to the camp was before dropping down and circling back, so for a time we thought he’d continue on. He was guarded, being extra careful in case we or anyone else might see him.  I couldn’t make out his face, but I noticed he walked with a limp and wondered what his story was. I wondered what his “place” looked like. I thought of the tumbleweed forts I’d made as a child and knew they could get quite cozy.

Russ said, he didn’t care if he was there as long as he doesn’t inadvertently start a brush fire.  Understandably. California is known for it’s lack of water and dry conditions and living above a canyon made it difficult for us to get insurance on our home as it was, so fires are of great concern.

I was grateful of Russ’ compassionate response. I agreed, just leave the man be. Life is tough these days, he’s made a spot for himself there and as long as he’s not hurting anyone, let him be. I still want to know his story though.

I thought about going down there myself and check it out, but maybe that would be risky.  I suppose “we” (my granddaughter is coming out for a visit this week), but we could walk the track and leave a bag of groceries near the trail by the tracks, it’s not far from the depot…

I wondered too if any of my other neighbors have noticed? How do they feel about it? I dare not ask and call attention to it.

COYOTES –

Sometimes coyotes get to running in the canyon, howling and yapping eerily, I wonder how it sounds from there in the camp?  Is there any danger in that?  Yet it’s been awhile since I’ve heard the coyotes; seen one down our street, but there’s not been the usual howling each night. Perhaps his being there has something to do with that? Hmmmm

TODAY –

I gave some bills to what appeared to be a homeless young man, for bus fare he said. He wasn’t limping but I was compelled because of ‘our” homeless guy at the bottom of the hill. I thought about mom but almost shouted after him to “pay it forward”.